Album Review: City and Colour – If I Should Go Before You

By on Monday, 19th October 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

City and Colour IISGBY coverToronto singer/songwriter City and Colour (also known by the city and colour of his given name, Dallas Green) abandoned his native city and decamped to Nashville for the recording of his last album, ‘The Hurry and the Harm’. Finding success in that setting, Green once again headed to Nashville’s Blackbird Studios to record his current LP ‘If I Should Go Before You’. “In Toronto”, Green says in the album’s press release, “I think of what I have to do. In Nashville, I think of everything I have done”.

Green chose to draw on previous experience in self-producing the new album, with assistance from Karl ‘Horse’ Bareham, but perhaps more importantly, he also chose to enlist the members of his touring band to play on the recording. Comprising bassist Jack Lawrence, guitar player Dante Schwebel, drummer Doug MacGregor and multi-instrumentalist Matt Kelly, the band certainly expanded City and Colour’s soundscape in the studio, but according to Green’s commentary below, their influence on the album started well before the recording process began.

They inspired me to want to create new music, just to create it with them. I don’t think I wrote these songs for the band, per se, but I certainly wrote them because of the band. Anybody who has seen us play will understand that this is the best representation of what we do live that we have ever recorded. I was so excited about being able to make and record an album with these guys that it just flowed. I felt so confident about their abilities to make all of my ideas come true.

Opening track and early album single ‘Woman’ (previously featured here), a sultry, bluesy affair that smoulders continuously throughout its languorous 9-minute length, is an immediate affirmation of Green’s sentiment. Its slow-burning intensity sets the bar high for the rest of the album, and for the most part, Green and his colleagues are able to deliver on its potential.

Most of the outstanding individual tracks on ‘If I Should Go Before You’ are on the first half of the album, building on the initial momentum of ‘Woman’. ‘Northern Blues’ is smoothly jazzy, with Green’s silky falsetto floating gracefully over a deep, pulsing groove, while ‘Mizzy C’ is grittier and more blues rock-oriented. Title track ‘If I Should Go Before You’ is another slow-burner whose allusive lyrics “when the night cries itself awake / dying in the light of day / our endless love will remain / until we meet again” benefit from both the jazz harmonies behind them and Green’s exquisitely sensual vocal delivery.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/fbStWiWDCEI[/youtube]

‘Wasted Love’ is one of the album’s most upbeat tracks, its concise and forceful lyrics matched by a boldly bluesy instrumental arrangement. From that point forward, the album strays from its established formula and takes on a warmer, though less cohesive, overall sound. ‘Runaway’ has a rather unexpected country tinge, while the gospel flavour of ‘Lover Come Back’ is heartfelt but possibly a bit predictable. ‘Map of the World’ is an energetic acoustic number that builds upon the evocative opening lines, “there is a map of the world that lies upon my weary face / each line representing a mile that I have traveled from place to place”. Closing track ‘Blood’ wisely showcases Green’s beautiful singing voice over an amazingly effective instrumental arrangement that somehow manages to feel both austere and expansive.

The first half of ‘If I Should Go Before You’ is a successful and enjoyable sonic experiment for City and Colour, while the second half is more varied, but also perhaps more comfortable and familiar. Overall, the album isn’t as much a definite change in direction for City and Colour as it is an expansion of his already established songwriting skill and his band’s demonstrated performing prowess.

7.5/10

‘If I Should Go Before You’, Dallas Green’s fifth release as City and Colour, is out now on Dine Alone Records/Caroline International. Green will tour the album in the UK and Ireland early next year; you can find a list of live dates right here.  For TGTF’s full archive of coverage on City and Colour, click here.

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